Back in January, following the Vicarious Visions merger announcement, Jen Oneal took on the role of EVP of Development at Blizzard. Today she has announced her departure and will be leaving Blizzard at the end of the year.
With Jen leaving, Mike Ybarra will now lead Blizzard. The departure comes following a turbulent year at Blizzard and Jen says she now wants to focus on diversity in gaming working with Women in Games International where she is a board member.
With the situation and Activision Blizzard calming down somewhat in recent weeks after Bobby Kotick’s recent announcement of changes at the company, this departure has probably been carefully timed.
To the Blizzard community,
Over the last few months, many of us have been taking the time to ask ourselves how we can effect the most positive change in our workplace, in our games, and in our communities.
On a macro level, Mike Ybarra and I, along with the rest of Blizzard, have been navigating the important changes we must undertake in order to be known as the creative powerhouse that brought hundreds of millions of players into Azeroth, Sanctuary, and more, all while ensuring our workplace and game communities are truly inclusive, safe, and inviting to all.
On a micro level, as I’ve listened to the stories from people all over Blizzard and been inspired by their courage and conviction, I’ve been thinking about the potential of what I can do as an individual to create the most meaningful change. For the last 20 years of my career, I have loved developing games–they are my lifeblood. I also have been fortunate to find my passion and voice in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space along the way.
Those of you who have played our games will know that sometimes our adventures can keep you on the quest you set out on, but sometimes, a new quest beckons us.
I want you to hear from me personally that I have made the decision to step away from co-leading Blizzard Entertainment and will transition to a new position before departing ABK at the end of the year. Effective immediately, Mike Ybarra will lead Blizzard. I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite–I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts. This energy has inspired me to step out and explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect, and hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard (and other studios) as well. While I am not totally sure what form that will take, I am excited to embark on a new journey to find out.
ABK’s leadership is graciously offering their support for my decision and has worked with me on a plan to invest in the future of other women in the gaming industry, by agreeing to make a US $1 million grant to Women in Games International–a fantastic non-profit organization, where I am a board member, that cultivates and advances equality and diversity in the global games industry. This money will be used to fund skill-building and mentorship programs.
With my remaining time here, I will be transferring my responsibilities to Mike, and transitioning into a new role working closely with Activision Blizzard and WIGI to determine the first steps around how the grant will be utilized, and its structure. The partnership is full of potential and is another step in a long-term commitment to create better support, resources, and guidance to women in the gaming industry.
Mike has been unbelievably supportive throughout my decision-making process around this move, and I have every confidence in him leading Blizzard. Mike and I have been working together to develop many of the actions we’ll be taking to continue making Blizzard a safer, stronger, and more inclusive workplace, and I know he plans on sharing some of those actions with you soon.
I wanted to tell the Blizzard community this personally because I want you to know I believe so strongly in Mike and the rest of Blizzard’s leadership both in terms of Blizzard’s culture and Blizzard’s games. Blizzard’s best days are ahead. I truly believe that. I also am hoping this letter helps you to think about what you can do to make everyone around you–no matter their gender, race, or identity–feel welcome, comfortable, and free to be themselves.
Thank you for the support you have shown our teams over the last few months. I know that your positive messages have helped our people tremendously during this time.
And to everyone at Blizzard, thank you–for your honesty, your belief in a better future, and your incredible work ethic, creativity, and passion. You inspired me to find my own path in championing the cause for equality and my hope is that you inspire our players to do the same.
Thank you again,